A new federal advisory report wants to make buying a hearing aid as easy and inexpensive as buying prescription eyeglasses, calling for changes to “dramatically increase competition and increase new choices for millions of Americans” experiencing hearing loss.

Nearly 30 million Americans have age-related hearing loss, the report notes, but only “a small fraction” are getting help for the condition “and that rate is even smaller among low income and racial and ethnic minorities.”

The report from the President’s Commission on Science and Technology (PCAST) strongly supports shifting some of the power and decision-making away from the hearing aid industry and audiologists. The report, which was sent to President Obama, specifically addresses the needs of older adults with age-related hearing loss, who currently have few options: All hearing aids are expensive, and access to hearing care is complex and difficult.

The report notes that the average price of one hearing aid is more than $2,300 and that most consumers need two, causing “high costs to be a major obstacle for many people,” especially because Medicare and most insurance plans do not cover the devices.

Age-related hearing loss is by far the largest single category of hearing loss, affecting 1 out of 4 adults between the ages of 60 and 69, more than half between 70 and 79, and 80 percent of those older than 80, according to the report.

Failure to treat hearing loss can result in isolation and depression, an increased risk of cognitive decline and an increased risk of falls.

Source: AARP